Riverside community goes green
JAKARTA: Brightly coloured wooden-and-brick houses line a clean riverside path amid trees and vegetable gardens, a tranquil scene in the chaotic Indonesian capital here.
Residents have transformed the “kampung ”, as traditional neighbourhoods are known, into a model of clean and green living to fight off the threat of eviction.
Tongkol village was once much like many other down-at-heel riverside communities found across the overcrowded, trafficchoked metropolis of 10 million.
But a series of controversial evictions of waterside neighbourhoods, aimed at getting houses away from the capital’s rivers to combat annual flooding, spurred the residents into making major changes.
“We want to prove that poor people can bring about change in their environment,” said Gugun Muhammad, a resident.
The project, which began in 2015, involved launching a major clean-up by sending rafts onto the stretch of river running through Tongkol to remove mountains of trash, putting up bins around the village and signs to remind residents not to litter.
The most drastic part of the facelift saw residents taking sledgehammers to their own houses.
They wanted to ensure the buildings were at least 5m from the river to lessen the risk of flooding and allow road access.
Vegetable and herbs are cultivated in specially constructed boxes; papaya, mango and banana hang from trees; and composting organic waste is second nature to the 260 families that make up the small community.
Septic tanks have also been fitted to some houses to reduce the amount of raw sewage being pumped into the river.
While some residents are still in the bad habit of littering, it is a stark contrast to how the kampung looked a few years ago.
The piles of rubbish that once lined the riverbanks are gone and the floods that used to inundate the neighbourhood every rainy season are a thing of the past.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a success just yet — but it’s far better than before,” said Gugun, 30, who also works for a civil society group called the Urban Poor Consortium.
The residents decided to take matters into their own hands as they feared being forced from their homes in the eviction drive spearheaded by Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
Purnama has defended the campaign, saying it will prevent the annual floods by allowing rivers to be widened.
As the government drive gathered momentum and authorities threatened Tongkol with eviction in 2015, transforming the neighbourhood took on an urgency for a community that has existed for half a century.
“To build a new life is scary — being evicted is not an option,” Puji Rahayu, a 43-year-old Tongkol resident, said.
Gugun said the kampung was trying to live day by day and not focus on the ever-present threat of losing their homes. AFP
The previous condition of Tongkol village is juxtaposed against its current condition in Jakarta in January.